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Editorial: Public hunt in Sweden sparks international controversy

[large thumbnail url=”editorial-public-hunt-in-sweden-sparks-international-controversy” filename=”editorial” year=”2010″ month=”01″ day=”15″] Jess Edberg, Information Services Director for the International Wolf Center, published an article regarding the recent open wolf hunt held in Sweden.

Sweden recently held its first legal wolf hunt since 1964, harvesting 28 wolves from five areas in the center of the country along its border with Norway. Although the hunting window was January 2 through February 15, the cull ended on January 6, much sooner than expected.

A member nation of the European Union (EU), Sweden has been criticized for violating wolf conservation agreements that were ratified under the Bern Convention. The Bern Convention is a legally binding instrument established in 1979 to conserve native wildlife and habitats throughout Europe, especially species and habitats that are endangered. International cooperation is thus promoted and encouraged.

According to the 2005 “Report on the Conservation Status and Threats for Wolf (Canis lupus) in Europe,” the wolf in Sweden is listed as an Appendix II species, meaning it is strictly protected. Therefore, the wolf and its habitat in Sweden receive full protection from the Convention, and Sweden’s environmental authorities then enforce this obligation.

EU members are allowed to apply declarations and exceptions to the Convention; however, Sweden did not file such an addendum before scheduling the recent hunt. In the absence of a specific declaration to allow a hunt, several conservation groups are threatening to report the Swedish government’s violation to the EU Commission, which is responsible for overseeing correct implementation of EU treaties and laws.

Although lethal control by government officials is currently used as a management tool, Sweden implemented the recent highly regulated public hunt to control the growing wolf population it shares with neighboring Norway. An estimated at 237 wolves inhabit roughly 20 percent of Sweden’s 450,295 km² land area. The cull was in response to a decision by the Swedish Parliament last October to increase public tolerance of wolves by limiting the country’s wolf population over the next five years to a maximum of 210 wolves in approximately 20 packs. Some experts believe that culling somewhat less than10 percent of the current population will help decrease perceived genetic depression thought to be occurring in both Sweden and Norway. The culling of 27 animals will, supporters believe, bring the population down to the desired level for 2010. The quota was met within four days of the hunt’s start with one extra wolf having been harvested in the Dalarna region due to a miscommunication between hunters and officials keeping track of the quota.

Interest groups on all sides of the issue have expressed their opinions in recent media publications. Most sentiments mirrored those of similar groups in the United States in response to the legal wolf hunts recently initiated in Idaho and Montana. The animosity toward wolf hunters, which included death threats, the dismay over the government’s failure to apply protective measures for wolves, and even the concern over genetic diversity show how controversial wolf management is around the world.

Shared controversy may provide an opportunity for wolf and other wildlife managers to seek cooperation with one another, share information, and devise conflict resolution techniques that bring opposing interest groups closer to successful resolutions.

Follow the great work of the International Wolf Center.

Republished with permission from the author.

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